U.S. Lubes Sales Flat in 2006


U.S. sales of lubricants, greases and process oils fell just shy of 2.45 billion gallons in 2006, according to data released yesterday by the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. The trade groups annual Report on U.S. Lubricating Oil and Wax Sales shows that automotive lubricants – consistently the largest slice of the market – were 56.1 percent of the total volume sold, with industrial lubricants accounting for 21.2 percent, and process oils for 18.1 percent. Metalworking comprised 2.1 percent of the market and lubricating greases 2.4 percent.

The 80-page statistical report offers comparative data from companies that provide sales figures for both years. The comparative data can be used to help spot market trends, while the total reported sales volume varies depending on the population of the surveys voluntary respondents.

The 2006 comparative data shows a 1 percent decrease in overall sales of lubricants, greases and process oils, compared to 2005. As in 2005, sales of lubricating greases were the bright spot growth-wise, hitting 56 million gallons a year in 2006, versus 48.7 million gallons a year earlier – a 15.1 percent jump.

Sales of automotive oils slowed by 1.6 percent last year to reach 1,441 million gallons, the reports comparative data indicates. Gasoline engine oils were nearly half of that volume, at 715 million gallons, with SAE 10W-30 and 5W-30 by far the most popular viscosity grades. The report shows that SAE 5W-20 also made gains, and now has nipped past SAE 10W-40 in sales.

On the heavy-duty engine oil side, sales were up 3.8 percent in 2006, the NPRA data shows. Diesel engine oil sales reached 382 million gallons, the comparative data shows, and the most popular grade, SAE 15W-40, is about 86 percent of that. Monograde diesel engine oil continued to rapidly lose ground, plummeting 13.3 percent from 2005 to 2006.

Industrial oil sales essentially were flat at 537 million gallons in 2006 versus 538 million gallons a year earlier, a 0.2 percent downtick, NPRAs comparative data shows. Some strong gains were seen in the heavy transportation sector, where sales of industrial engines oils used in rail, marine and natural gas engines totaled 152 million gallons, a 4.2 percent increase. Compressor oils were up 3.3 percent, but antiwear and fire-resistant hydraulic oils both sagged in volumes sold.

Process oils saw a 2.1 percent decline overall, falling from 424 million gallons in 2005 to 415 million gallons in 2006, according to the comparative data. There were bright spots here as well. Agriculture oils, which in 2005 had fallen by 33 percent, rebounded with a 10 percent increase in 2006. Electrical oils also grew in 2006, by 5 percent, and rubber oils gained almost 8 percent.

Other process oils mostly experienced declines however, including white oils with a nearly 13 percent drop, and naphthenic process oils used in applications such as inks, coatings, paints and defoamers (down 9.1 percent).

Among metalworking oils, the lone sales increase last year was a 4 percent jump for semi-synthetic soluble oils (micro-emulsion with some mineral oil). The steepest drop among metalworking oils was a nearly 15 percent decline for synthetic soluble oils for 2006.

NPRAs 2006 Report on U.S. Lubricating Oil and Wax Sales is available at a cost of $300 per copy for nonmembers. Visit www.npra.org, and download the order form from the Publications link.

Lisa Tocci contributed to this report.

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